I just felt like writing about this. I have written about this before, but nothing wrong with another iteration.

I am married now. My reality has changed. My perception about travel has evolved. I won't say I have become the new "ME", but certainly, I have changed a lot.

This was my first motorcycle after a long time. I did not own motorcycles for a few years when I was shuttling cities and jobs from 2006 - 2011. However, shifting was not the only reason. I was scared. I did stupid things on motorcycles. I crashed. I herniated my spine, L1-s5 as the doctors used to call it. Hospitalized for months, and my folks thought it had to end. My parents sold my Motorcycles when I was in the hospital.



Well, which is why I am writing this post. Motorcycles are inherently dangerous and unforgiving. Maybe not? Motorcycling is not, of itself, inherently dangerous. It is, however, extremely unforgiving of inattention, ignorance, incompetence, or stupidity.

When I met Hubert Kreigal,  he said: "Don't forget to take a risk today and Don't be stupid". The message kind of resonates in my thoughts every time I turn the ignition switch on. Fear is good. It's also good to know one's limit.

Meh, That didn't stop me from crashing the Ninja into a ditch. I was on crutches for a month. soft tissue damage, dislocation, what not. So, let's get right to the point. Motorcycles crashes can be morbid. People die. Shit happens. But, Don't be sad.

Because, there is absolutely no reason to be sad here. Here's a message to all the Mom's, Dad's, Sisters, Wife's, brothers, and sons of Motorcycle people. Yes, I am speaking for all of us here. Please remember that we took life and death chances every time we went out and started that motorcycle...this is our choice. We know the risks obviously, and we are all (relatively) sane (surprising huh?), and We might die...like many before us and many that will come.

In fact, us Motorcycle people, should be happy and celebrate every lost life, and the fact that we lived as long as we did.

Thinking about it, Motorcycles don't kill people. Life kills everyone. Think of all the people that die in dismal, white-painted, antiseptic-smelling, hospitals attached to machines after years of suffering. Think of all the truly awful ways to die. From that preview, If I died riding, I died in the best way.

So, Rest in Peace, Whoever you are ~ You set a great example and advanced the human race. because that's what we motorcycle people do.  


Remember, A bike on the road is worth two in the shed. Tell your cage friends to watch out for Motorcycles. Nothing more, nothing less, whoever you are, keep shiny side up and the rubber side down

And here are some beautiful Himalaya's pictures and people who live there. 






So to celebrate hitting the 10,000km mark on the roads and dirt tracks of India, Nepal and Bhutan on Morgan, I’ve decided to don my flack jacket, raise my head above the parapet and throw my hat into this well-trodden ring of motorcycle travel. 




Motorcycle travel can mean many things to many people, which can muddy the waters of the discussion with fancy words like "Adventure".So we are not going to do that talk now. However, we will stick to the concept of overland travel on a motorcycle, and I seem to have come to an interesting conclusion if you may.  About Travel and Travellers. Based on people I met on my travels, Local and foreign, based on interactions, and the time we spent together and spoke those few words or sentences. Sometimes, we did not comprehend each other, and a lot of times, its been an interesting conversation with follow-up. So, keep this in mind for later. If you are reading this. This article probably needs a follow-up as well, from someone else who's reality is very different from mine. 
            


So,  Air Canada has this cool program. To make it easier for Canadians to fly to Europe (and other continents) with their motorcycles. They call it "Fly Your Bike". Costs typically run about $1,000 CDN ($750 US) for return transport. James cargo offers to ship of any motorcycle from the UK to anywhere in the planet and the service is offered with a smile ! I am Sea-lander, inhabiting a coastal plain of the state of Tamil Nadu, along the eastern coast of the Indian Peninsula. I was curious to know if there an equivalent from Air India or an Indian "James Cargo". Lets be honest. It does'nt exist. But, the curious person in me connected the dots. I wondered why most folk we (me and my wife ) met in our recent travels, mostly foreign kept asking us why don't Indian's travel the world like westerns do? A few times, I sat back and engaged, and when the conversation got going, I realised that we had a lot less common than what people tend to portray. So what's portrayed? cliched stuff. Because the reality is far from cliche. Like the "Budgetary Case for Slow Travel" ..you travel slow, it's not that deep in the pocket. Like "Camp and not stay in expensive hotels when in Europe if you are a budget traveler". But As an Indian with a blue passport with fancy gold lion embossing, You see I cannot get a Schengen visa approved If I camp or tell them the truth about my Motorcycle. The Schengen agreement says that everything has to be "pre-booked" always with a return ticket and a fuckoff note. like Because, we are not equal by any means, because we do not share the same privileges, because we have different motherlands with imaginary borders but real passports. Passports are as real as it gets folks. Don't think its true? you'd be surprised that we have made this some sort of competition and have ranks like kids do. So, who wants to play mother hen amongst grown-ups ? All the freaking Countries !! Sexy and Shocking, but I am sure there are plenty of reasons to justify the passport ranks and why it is so and why it will remain to be so. 



Somehow things have percolated all wrong. like bad coffee. Because now I realize that the german guy on a BMW r1200GS and the swiss guys on the KTM690 with a fancy bezel rally kit don't know how privileged they were "right off the shelf" if you can call it that. Based on data from Passport ranking index, they are free to travel to up to 160 of 195 countries without a visa or get a visa when they "appear". I won't call it visa on arrival for a reason because it's truly, "visa when you appear" if you get the difference. It doesn't take a genius to realize that travel to "cheaper" third world countries sustains "Travel" more than to spend the same amount of money in Norway or Iceland, which would probably last you a week or 2 depending on how long you wanted to travel in the first place. 

Now is when it becomes some sort of a sick joke ! Because, all these people come to cheaper countries, meet the people, realize that People are generally friendly, helping, hospitable and more. Then they also tell you other things that you already know as a traveler - "the world is a safer place than we think" - "Don't believe Popular media, Iran is a fantastic place", etc, etc. and later ask them questions like they asked me and my wife - "why don't you people travel ?, I have never seen a motorcycle traveler from India in Germany, but plenty of germans here in Goa". So we have a full circle now, But do you get the sick joke? I am not even starting to crib about the carnet de passage and other paperwork yet. Guess what folks. People are awesome. Every goddamn where in this planet. You just have get off your ass, and wallah, you meet them. 















Well, I am back to writing after a while. and I’d like to start with a rant. I am a bit concerned and feel sad for the people that get sucked into all the "adventure" horse shit. To think about it, The adventures people could have if they just rode out there enjoyed themselves instead of buying all the crap from the big brands to keep up with the social media and Jones next door. I have a very strong opinion that these folks have tarnished a noble thing for the rest of us. ie. going for a ride on a bike. Now, these unscrupulous companies slam you with happy selfies from sponsored riders driving home to the punter. They must have the latest crash protection, wet weather gear, gps or the latest luggage set or even a bike!  What happened to just going for a ride guys ? I realised that I got sucked in, I wish I’d spent more money on gas than the "right” gear. 

It brings up a huge question. What is an adventure ? is going out there on a guided tour or a rented motorcycle an adventure? Are guided tours not “real” adventures? 

Well, it can be both. Because Adventure isn't a prescription.


I very strongly believe that Adventure is in the individual. It is as close to putting on your boots in the morning and heading out the door. In our case, motorcycles. And it's not about the prize, the trophy, the goal, the gold. Robert service in his poem "the spell of the yukon" put it perfectly: "Yet it ins't the gold that I'm wanting so much as just finding the gold". That's adventure. The finding of it.



So, Leaving from where we left last time, I have quite the story to tell. As funny as it may sound, the story is about the 20 year old motorcycle which me and my wife rode all the way from the eastern himalayas in bhutan to the fringes of Jammu and kashmir traversing some gigantic peaks in Nepal. Its a story of no questioning how the universe works in uncanny ways. It's a story of friends who met through OLX. 






the Motorcycle is a 1996 ‘Made in spain’ Transalp 600 (XL600v). I named the Transalp “Morgan Freeman”. Because, it was Old, Red and full of redemption. The name just stuck. We carried parts to makre sure Morgan gets some TLC. 

We stopped being silly, and got serious riding.And riding is what we did. From the Teesta, to the Sevoke to Torsa to Paro and ended up in Mangde where Phobjika valley lies. 



A landscape right out of fairy tale. Where 6 foot tall black necked cranes migrate in winters, it was utterly surreal.  We took the lesser travelled border gate into Nepal in Pashupathi Nagar, which is a diversion from Ghum, the last railway station where the Infamous Toy train journey ends. The terrain is quite magical changing from Alpine to Alpine shrubs. 
















Nepal - Kathmandu, the capitol was under siege, with no Petrol anywhere in sight for the first 2 days. After some local help, managed to fill Morgan copious amounts of petrol to take me to Pokhara. We rode to the forbidden kingdom of “Mustang” surrounded by 8000 meter peaks. The Annapurna conservation area is really something in the monsoon’s on a big motorcycle. We then tracked our way down to the beauty of the terai region and made it in time to the “Teej” festival. 














We rode from the ganjes, its tributaries and ended up at the chenab which met the sutlej in Spiti valley. 






 









Reflecting on the most incredible 2 months in the mountains, we crossed cold deserts, snow-capped peaks, forests and quaint villages. Safely traveled through them, and sometimes we were told not to go to places, visited others I'd not previously heard of. We were ecstatic, happy, sad, drunk, baked, drunk and baked, exhausted, moved, overwhelmed and mostly, fascinated. We made new friends for life, we fought, and sometimes were victims of hospitality and were given most from those with least to give.  We learned that a gesture is worth more than a thousand words, because, sometimes poor isn't necessarily unhappy. We learned to live with less and we shipped most of the things back midway. We become better travelers. I now trust people and our instinct. We saved cash, blew the budget, ran out of money, made false transactions and threw some illegal things at problems. We became compassionate human beings, mechanics, and with a technical ability only slightly better than a blind gibbon wearing boxing gloves, we became experts in many fields. We administered first aid by the road side and broke the sub-frame. We ate extraordinary food, Met western people who were learning to "cook mo-mo’s”. We ate with dirty hands, from plates, with clean hands, from leaves, plastic bowls and occasionally the huge pot. We slept in tents, in hotels, hostels, homestays, in cold deserts, on mountain tops, and in the wilderness. We saw stars, almost every day, and occasionally the milkyway. We had the most incredible good fortune tempered with bad some luck. We visited, museums, temples, churches, monasteries, and monasteries and monasteries ...The Himalayas is full of Monasteries. We communicated in sign language, learned a few words of tsonga, nepali, pahadi, and hindi. 
















In Hindsight, now that we are back home, I sometimes wonder. Did it ever go away? Is the chronic travel addiction that strong ? is it because there always a chance of not finding what is over the hill that you haven't seen before? a new feeling or experience that hasn't been absorbed, yet? 


My inference is a fair warning. Warning: Motorcycle travel is highly addictive and there is NO known cure. 









Yep. It's been a year since I wrote anything here. But, nevertheless, Living up to the blog's name, "The Motorcycle Odyssey", My creepy obsession with motorcycles has reached new levels. As I write this, things have changed.

It's been 2 full years and some months now since I quit my full-time job. It's been craggy, dented, indented and later to laugh at, a knobby journey. I am married to my beautiful wife who's been there all along. The mongrel named "Seabiscuit" has been ever-faithful, and the new addition to the stable, The B&W Pig, has been on her shakedown and is an all-new project now after some "shake-down-findings".

Santhosh and I on the GRIT - Great Indian Trail which will always be a WIP for me, forever !

Us at 10 Degrees OFF, Bandhipur


Rebuilding the XR after the Chennai floods was a great journey by itself. With little or no help, It took me many working days, and some 200 Hrs to put it all back together.  I got married later that summer we rode out to the GRIT trail again, 2up on the Seabiscuit.

GRIT, Sathyamangalam

So, Back to Mountains. The mountains I love the most - The Himalayas. High peaks, the smell of the air, The Playground, A place like nowhere else, and A place where I have managed to go ever since my first affair with it. My affair started in 2013. After returning back to it in 2014, the feeling was stronger than ever. Accompanied by friends was no longer a necessity, and nor was going there in "Riding season". In continuation to where I left off, I DID NOT make it to Kaza in March 2015. I was not mentally prepared, and the conditions were unforgiving. After staying in Tabo for 2 days, I had to track my way back. A Treacherous ride back. Kibber was a vanishing dream and snow leopard's even fainter. 

Nako

Now reliving 2015, A year after I quit my full time (life less) job at the building of high paying jobs, right next to pie in the sky building. It was a hard choice to make and meant lesser "eating out" and generally restricting things which I used to take for granted.Thinking about it, Quiting the job, it had to be done sooner or later. 

I am not sure if anyone even reads this blog. I know very few do, but unlike other people writing blogs, I am writing only so that, I can come back to re-live the moment. That's all.

These moments are meant be re-lived, and stored forever. Like a friend once said "When you tell a story, make sure it's a good one"

Now its 2016 & Always remember that adventure is greater than any vacation you can ever take. My honeymoon project as the wife knows it was to keep things simple. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to take her on that long travel and maybe even go overland ! Obviously, there is a motorcycle involved, and even more obviously it had to be the Himalayas. But this time, A little bit different. 

So, How different is different ? "Go rescue a 20-year Honda parked somewhere in the Himalayas 1000’s of miles away from home" different. What's more epic than riding an unknown bike into the world's largest off-road playground 2up with luggage from the Teesta to the Zanskar ? Challenge accepted.

The bike was ridden to India by a Swede from, guess what, Sweden in 2013 (http://himalayanbiketours.se/en/?p=225) by a guy named STIG .. Yep, you read that right. I am buying STIG's bike. The bike has almost 70k on the clock and I only have photos. But, I bought it. Coz it has to be rescued, coz Transalp's are a cult bike. Having said that, I am betting it will break down, and the real adventure will begin after we overcome the hardest part of the journey, Leaving. So, we leave August 1st to Kalimpong ! As the bike's already there, waiting ever patiently. I'll be carrying service spares, new plugs, Oil & Air filters, bearing if anything breaks mid way, etc. Lastly, I don't think you need a bloody spanking new motorcycle to go on a trip. Seabiscuit is a living proof of it and makes me fall in love eveytime we are together in faraway places. Sometimes, you just have to take that blind leap of faith. Sometimes, you just have to stop worrying and start riding. 


The actual bike

67,265 kms to be precise

Comes as is with the Monokey luggage system panniers and top box. Yep, the tires are worn.

I have a facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/themotorcycleodyssey/ where i'll posting updates and will be active on the group MTM-GRID 

"There is definitely a charm to planting roots, but I fear my own complacency. You can’t be lazy when you have an expiration date"

So, Go out there, Go live your dreams.. Become a stranger in strange lands.. Go find your wild places,  do something hard..do something that you might fail doing…& make adventure a part of your life

Sincerely,
The Motorcycle Odyssey Guy 
Over & Out !